With the State Department urging a US court to dismiss a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for its operations in Indonesia, the Bush administration is making its second bid this year to restrict international corporate responsibility for human rights violations abroad, the New York Times reported today. The suit alleges that, in hiring the Indonesian military to provide security for their gas extraction and liquification project, Exxon Mobil — the world’s biggest energy company — was complicit in the torture, murder, and rape of villagers in Aceh province. However, the State Department suggested the suit might cause Exxon Mobil to leave Indonesia, in turn allowing Chinese oil companies to gain greater prominence in Southeast Asia, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Under the Clinton administration, the State Department took a neutral stance on cases of this kind, according to the Nation. “We have an administration that is much closer to corporate interests,” said Bama Athreya, the deputy director of the International Labor Rights Fund, the law firm representing plaintiffs in the case. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Exxon Mobil Corporation — second to Enron Corporation — was one of the largest campaign donors overall in the 2000 election, with Republicans receiving 89 percent of its contributions.
The suit is being brought under the US Alien Tort Claims Act of 1792, which has been used since the 1970s by survivors of torture to sue their torturers. None of the suits brought against corporations has yet been brought to trial.